Africa Feeds Amazon Forests

NASA’s Earth Observation satellites give us some amazing images of Earth from orbit. I note that NASA has been collecting continuous, detailed data about our land, sea, and air for decades, all of which is available to scientists and the public.

There are lots of ways to study our home planet, and what orbital observations contribute are truly global views, which can tell us what’s going on, and how things are connected.

This week NASA has released some interesting imagery showing massive dust storms in northern Africa, which blow west out over the ocean.

In fact, some of the dust blows all the way to South America, where is falls on the rain forests. The article reports studies of just how much dust travels this far, which is estimated to be quite a lot.

So what? Well, the dust carries minerals, and fertilizes the soils it falls on. This feeds the plants. Africa feeding South American forests. Cool!

The studies suggest that the rain of dust from Africa just about balances out the nutrient that seep out of the forest into rivers and out to sea. In other words, without the dust from Africa, the great forests of the Amazon would have starved long ago!

Actually, the fact that the system is so balanced may not be so surprising. The forest has evolved to exploit this rain of nutrients (as well as all the other sources), and probably has “tuned” to just about the rate that it arrives.



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